Sudan's military-led Sovereign Council accuses foreign embassies of meddling

Complaint comes as the military comes under growing pressure to restore democratic transition and halt use of excessive force against protesters

Sudan's army chief and coup leader Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan. AFP
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Sudan’s military-led Sovereign Council has been briefed by the country’s acting foreign minister on what it called the inappropriate activities of some foreign diplomatic missions in Khartoum.

In a statement late on Thursday night, the council said acting minister Ali Al Sadeq gave the council a briefing on “the activities by some diplomatic missions in Khartoum that run contrary to diplomatic norms and violate the country’s sovereignty.” The statement did not elaborate.

It coincided with growing pressure by western powers on Sudan’s military to restore the democratic transition it had upended when army chief Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan seized power in a coup on October 25.

The military also is under pressure over the use of excessive force against peaceful protesters during mass, post-coup rallies demanding civilian rule.

At least 78 protesters have been killed and close to 3,000 wounded since October 25.

The US Embassy and the UN mission in Khartoum have consistently stated their support for Sudan’s pro-democracy movement and condemned the use of excessive force against protesters.

Thursday night’s statement by the Sovereign Council appeared to be at least partially linked to the military’s continuing efforts to undermine the image of the pro-democracy movement. It has in the past accused protesters of resorting to violence and at times hinted that they were being manipulated by foreign powers.

A police general was stabbed to death during demonstrations earlier this month in circumstances that are yet to be clarified.

The military has meanwhile been warning against unspecified terrorism threats to the country.

Last month, it said it was creating a counterterrorism force to deal with the threats. It has also restored the far-reaching powers the intelligence and security agencies had enjoyed under the rule of dictator Omar Al Bashir but which had been taken away following his April 2019 ousting.

On Wednesday, several thousand pro-military protesters rallied against a UN bid to resolve Sudan’s political crisis. The demonstrators gathered outside the Khartoum office of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan, which launched talks with Sudanese factions this month.

They held up banners that read, “Down, down UN”, and others that urged UN special Representative to Sudan Volker Perthes to “Go back home".

Police did not intervene.

The Sovereign Council, which is led by Gen Al Burhan, has publicly welcomed the UN-led dialogue, as have the US, Britain, neighbouring Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The US and the World Bank have suspended hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of economic assistance to Sudan since the coup.

Washington has said there will be no resumption of aid before concrete steps are taken to restore the democratic transition, which began after the toppling of Al Bashir’s 29-year regime.

On Tuesday, US assistant secretary of state for African affairs Molly Phee lambasted Sudan’s military leaders, accusing them of backtracking on the commitments they made during her visit to the country last week.

“They publicly committed to dialogue to resolve the current crisis,” she wrote on Twitter after Sudanese security forces arrested several pro-democracy and women’s rights activists. “Yet their actions — more violence against protesters, detention of civil society activists — tell a different story and will have consequences.”

US President Joe Biden this week announced his intention to nominate John Godfrey, who currently serves as the acting special envoy to counter ISIS, as the new US ambassador to Sudan.

Mr Godfrey also serves as the president’s acting counter-terrorism co-ordinator at the State Department.

A career diplomat, Mr Godfrey has been as the deputy chief of mission and political counsellor at the US embassy in Saudi Arabia. He has also served at the US embassies in Iraq, Syria and Libya.

Updated: January 28, 2022, 9:32 AM